Failing: Own It, Fix It and Move Forward

A few months ago, the super-networked Nikki Little shared her Fail Detroit post on Facebook. I was intrigued, and after poking around on the site, referenced a big FAIL from earlier in my career. One thing led to another, and the post below appeared on Fail Detroit, which tells us, “We all fail. Learn from it.” Shout-out to Brandon; keep up the creative, courageous work in the D!

The Attempt

I was the client manager in an agency team working on a brochure. We had the usual process of creative meetings, copywriting, design and client approvals.

What Went Wrong

Photo Credit: Boston Wolverine via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Boston Wolverine via Compfight cc

After delivery, the client sales manager called me to tell me that there was a mistake on the cover. The cover, which had a grand total of eight words. We had repeated a word in the title. There were three lines of copy wrapping around an image, and at some point during the design process, we had been trying out different combinations to see what looked best. The problem was it balanced best with the extra word, so everyone somehow focused on that, instead of actually reading the copy.

Eight people needed to sign off before it got printed. Eight. All of our initials were in a row on the proof. Obviously as the client manager, the one that mattered was me, and I blew it. I can feel that “ugh” feeling in my gut as I type this, and that was 10 years ago! Oh, the pleasure of apologizing to the client and everyone else, and then reporting the incident during our 50-person staff meeting.

Lessons Learned

I did not run screaming for the hills, as I’m sure I wanted to at the time. I’ve worked my way up through the communications industry, and now work as a public relations consultant. If eight people can miss a clear mistake, it is all the more important that I check and double-check. It’s all on me. You NEVER have to push something so fast through production that you can’t take the time to make sure everything is correct.

One of my mandates when I’m producing material for clients is that the copy has to be final when we go to design. It’s not fair to ask designers to play with words; that’s not their area of expertise, and you’re just asking for trouble.

No one’s perfect. The best way to arm yourself against those mistakes that will happen is to create your own system of checks and balances, which will boost your confidence and reduce your stress. When that mistake does happen, I guarantee that 99 percent of the time, you are more upset than the client is. Own it, fix it and move forward. That’s what will keep your client’s trust.

Do you have an example of a fail? How did you power through?


Leave a Comment